Analysis of the News “On the anniversary of NATO aggression at 12:44, the blockade of institutions that serve to the West will be held”

March 2023

As part of the program Regional Initiative to Combat Disinformation, we present you a new analyses of fake news and disinformation narratives.

On the anniversary of NATO aggression at 12:44, the blockade of institutions that serve to the West will be held

Although this week was marked by the news about UK sending ammunition with depleted uranium to the Ukrainian army, for Serbia it is far more important to mark the anniversary of the start of NATO-Serbia conflict, which, in addition to the usual state commemorations, had a different character this year.

The NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, official NATO operation code name -Operation Allied Force, began on March 24, 1999. NATO’s action came in response to unsuccessful negotiations on the solution of the crisis in Kosovo, held in Rambouillet and Paris in February and March 1999. The bombing lasted 78 days.

The portal, on the day marking 24 years since the beginning of the NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia, published a news which is calling for a protest against the current government. The news  announces the blockade of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and press conferences, symbolically starting at 12:44 (because of United Nations resolution 1244), in front of the Government of Serbia in Belgrade and the Provincial Government in Novi Sad by representatives of the right-wing opposition parties Dveri, Zavetnici, the New Democratic Party of Serbia and the Movement for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS), due to, as stated, opposition to the “French-German ultimatum on the recognition of the fake state of Kosovo”.

Portal Danas also reported the news about the protest that took place in Niš, where hundreds of citizens protested in front of the City Assembly.

“Representatives of the Serbian Movement Dveri, the New Democratic Party of Serbia, the Serbian Party Zavetnici and the Movement for the Restoration of the Kingdom of Serbia paid their respects to their fellow citizens who lost their lives in the NATO aggression, but also expressed their protest against the acceptance of the Franco-German agreement on the status of Kosovo and Metohija, which “recognizes the Kosovo’s statehood””, reports Danas.

MP and vice-president of Dveri Tamara Milenković-Kerković stated that Vučić, by accepting the Franco-German agreement, confirmed at the same time that the 17 countries of the NATO pact “rightfully and savagely bombed Serbia, renounced the sacred Serbian land for which Serbian martyrs, Serbian people, Serbian children and Serbian young men died” and added that “in this way, he also stole the occupied Kosmet from us, from our ancestors and from our children, and made all sacrifices futile”.

We can conclude that the right-wing political parties used in an emotional and manipulative way the day marking the NATO aggression against Serbia and the tragedy that the Serbian people experienced for the sake of achieving political points and goals.

Also, the Franco-German proposal doesn’t call for Serbia to recognize Kosovo. This proposal implies: the willingness of the parties to develop good neighborly relations based on equality and recognize documents and national symbols; they are guided by the aims and principles laid down in the United Nations Charter (such as principle of the sovereign equality of all States, respect for their independence, autonomy and territorial integrity, the right of self-determination); settle any disputes between them exclusively by peaceful means and refrain from the threat or use of force, proceed on the assumption that neither of the two can represent the other in the international sphere or act on its behalf (Serbia will not object to Kosovo’s membership in any international organization); commit to establish specific arrangements and guarantees to ensure an appropriate level of self-management for the Serbian community in Kosovo and formalize the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo; the Parties shall exchange Permanent Missions and they shall be established at the respective Government’s seat; the Parties shall establish a joint Committee, chaired by the EU, for monitoring the implementation of this Agreement and both Parties confirm their obligation to implement all past Dialogue agreements, which remain valid and binding. However, the controversial point of this proposal for Serbia is not objecting to Kosovo’s membership in any international organization. During media appearance on Happy television, President Aleksandar Vučić addressed the citizens of Serbia and stated that Serbia will not agree on Kosovo’s entry into the UN and will not recognize it in any way.

In addition to this, the text also contains frequently used but incorrect information about the number of bombing victims. Namely, the portal states that according to unofficial sources, around 2,500 civilians and around 1,000 soldiers and policemen died during the bombing. However, according to the data of  Humanitarian Law Center, whose data is based on 1,468 documents and 539 statements of witnesses and victims’ family members, in the period from March 24, 1999 to June 9, 1999, during the NATO bombing campaign, 758 individuals lost their lives in air raids: 488 individuals in Kosovo (249 Albanians, 202 Serbs, and 37 Roma and members of other ethnic groups), 260 individuals in Serbia, and 10 in Montenegro. Among these, 453 are civilian victims (220 Albanians, 205 Serbs, 28 Roma and members of other ethnic groups) and 305 are members of the armed forces (276 members of the Yugoslav Army and MUP Serbia and 29 KLA members).

A strong anti-Western narrative, in the days marking the anniversary, also spread through the Russian media. The Russian portal Sputnik in Serbian language published a news under the title “USA spreads death, Serbs and Russians forever brothers: Support to Serbia from Moscow on the anniversary of the NATO bombing”. The news reports that activists of the “Young Guard of United Russia” (MGER) and the “Volunteer Company” held protests in front of the embassies of Serbia and the USA in Moscow on the occasion of the anniversary of the beginning of the bombing of FR Yugoslavia. Activists carried posters and signs near the American embassy with the following messages: “USA spreads death”, “USA – a threat to peace”, “Truth and justice cannot be abolished”, and in front of the Serbian embassy “Russians and Serbs are brothers forever”.

In the statement of the head of the “Young Guard of United Russia”, Alexander Lebedev, it is stated that “now those countries (which participated in the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) are changing the facts at their convenience and declare Russia a sponsor of terrorism in order to justify themselves”.

The spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, confirmed again for RT Balkan that Serbia has the support of Russia.

Zakharova stated that after the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, the North Atlantic Alliance continued its lawlessness, supporting the genocide in Ukraine and the neo-Nazis. She also referred to the situation in Ukraine and drew a parallel between the events in the former Yugoslavia and what is currently happening on the front in Eastern Europe.

“Even then they invoked international law, but now everyone knows very well what came out of all that”. That’s why, as she said, “it’s not up to the Westerners, who buried their reputation in Yugoslavia forever, to teach us and the whole world anything, because we know very well what the real price of their lying policy is.”

The parallel that can be drawn between the bombing of the Federation of the Republic of Yugoslavia and the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is that Russia is in a way doing what NATO did to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Russia is using the separatist movements in the east of Ukraine to achieve its geostrategic interests and justify its armed aggression.